By Jessie Landerman, N-Map Project Manager
While Fahd and his family look to the future, I cannot help but reflect on how cruel his detention was and marvel at how Fahd preserved his humanity throughout. — Omar Farah, Fahd Gazy’s Attorney
N-Map recently learned that Fahd Ghazy, the subject of our 2014 film Waiting For Fahd, was finally released from Guantánamo and transferred to Oman. Fahd spent nearly 14 years in detention, despite having never been charged with a crime and having been cleared for release in 2007. “I have been waiting a lifetime just to start my life again,” he once wrote. Thanks to the advocacy efforts of Fahd’s legal team at the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), who created a video with N-Map in 2014, that day finally came in January.
Fahd, a Yemeni national, arrived at Guantánamo at age 17, shackled and hooded. The U.S. government failed to find a basis to bring a single charge against him, and both the Bush and Obama administrations cleared him for release. Despite this, his release was repeatedly delayed, leaving Fahd and his loved ones in a torturous state of waiting.
Our 11-minute video, Waiting For Fahd, was created with two distinct purposes. One was to prompt the Obama administration to work towards Fahd’s release by drawing attention to his unnecessary detention, and demonstrate that he had a close-knit community that would support him post-release. The other was to humanize the issue of indefinite detention at Guantánamo by sharing Fahd’s heartbreaking story. The film itself is a portrait of a young man trapped in the military prison, as told through the memories, hopes, and dreams of his loved ones.
“Films do something that no other form of advocacy really does, which is to bring viewers closer to an experience they would otherwise feel completely alienated or removed from,” said Omar Farah, Fahd’s attorney. “And there’s a very, very different result when people who care about the politics of GITMO are able to feel an emotional impact.”
Although we were unable to interview Fahd for the film, he was an active partner in the production from within the prison walls. We worked closely with a Yemeni film crew and CCR staff, who traveled to his village to film interviews with his family, lawyers, human rights advocates and government officials. Fahd himself recommended locations and interview subjects for the shoot, and reviewed transcripts of interviews afterwards. His attorneys emphasized the emotional importance of this undertaking in empowering Fahd, who was so thoroughly robbed of his humanity during his detention.
Most importantly, the film provided a platform for Fahd to speak directly to viewers, writing personally to thank them for being, “willing to view me as a human being…a man who is loved and who loves.”
Since it was published on CCR’s website in 2014, Waiting for Fahd has received more than 24,000 views, and has been screened publicly in New York, Washington, D.C. and New Orleans, as well as in person with key government officials. As part of their efforts to secure Fahd’s release, CCR tweeted Waiting for Fahd to more than one million people, including U.S. Senators preparing to vote on whether to restrict prisoner releases from Guantánamo. As a result, the film was featured by Newsweek, The Huffington Post, and other news outlets,
“A good indication of the success of the film is that when subsequent releases were announced, people would ask, ‘Why wasn’t Fahd one of them?’ That kind of personal investment is the thing that has been missing from Guantánamo advocacy ever since the prison opened,” said Farah. “People care about the issue, but don’t really care about the people there. At the very outset we made a difficult choice of identifying this particular story as the best vehicle for showing that there were many more men like Fahd. It’s the kind of tool that really advances the cause for all the prisoners.”
It was exciting to collaborate with CCR on this important case, and to create a video that was used as a key part of their strategy for Fahd’s release, as well as their broader campaign calling for the closure of Guantánamo and an end to indefinite detention. But we’re even more overjoyed to learn of Fahd’s release from Guantánamo, and commend Fahd, his family, and his legal team for their tireless dedication to justice.
CCR has led the battle against unjust and unnecessary detention at Guantánamo for 14 years, and notes that several of their clients remain imprisoned there without charge.